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Eagles drop heartbreaker in extra time to No. 20 Elon

Georgia Southern men’s soccer gave No. 20 Elon all it could handle on Friday evening in the first night game at Eagle Field. Georgia Southern fell behind early, but atoned for a pair of early goals to tie the match 2-2 in the 67th minute in front of a stadium record attendance of 936 fans. Elon scored again with 1:16 remaining, but GSU forced overtime with a goal just 33 seconds from full time. Elon, however, scored the game winner with 3:01 left in the second overtime period.

“We are obviously gutted to lose an overtime game like that,” said head coach Kevin Kennedy. “I was proud of the way the guys responded after giving up two quick goals, we got one back very soon after. We found the equalizer, but gave up the third late and had to fight yet again. We had our chances tonight, but the worst part is we gave up two goals off set pieces. If we can clean that up, I think we can compete with anyone in the country.”

Prior to kickoff, Georgia Southern honored its seniors Joe Hughes, Muhamed Sidibeh and Aleksandar Tomic.

Elon’s Jason Waterman scored twice in quick succession to give the Phoenix a 2-0 lead. He scored first in the 23rd minute and again in the 26th minute, both times off assists from Chris Thomas.

Drew Ruggles earned a free kick just minutes later in a dangerous position. Her arched the kick into the area where the Elon keeper looked to control the ball. He misplayed the save and the ball trundled into the net, cutting Elon’s lead to 2-1.

Georgia Southern’s Norton brothers combined for the first time this season in the 67th minute for the game-tying goal. Reed played the ball into the box on the ground, allowing brother Hunter to get on the end of the pass. He faked left, forcing the keeper to dive then finished into the bottom right corner of the net.

In the 78th minute Reed Norton had a chance to give the Eagles when his shot gave the Elon goalkeeper troubles.

With just 1:16 left in regulation, Elon’s Chris Thomas struck what could have been the game game-winning goal with his 17th goal of the season. A free kick from Gabe Latigue bounced inside the box and deflected into the net off the leg of Thomas for a 3-2 Elon lead.

After the goal, Georgia Southern pressed forward, earning a corner kick with about a minute remaining. After the corner, Elon was unable to clear the ball out as Witt Carlisle ripped a shot from outside the 18-yard box, finding the net with 33 seconds remaining in the match. The goal forced overtime for the second-straight match for the Eagles.

Neither team could score in the first overtime frame despite both teams earning quality chances.

With 3:01 left in the second overtime period, Elon’s Matt Wescoe headed in the game-winning goal on a corner kick. Latigue and Elliot Browarsky assisted on the goal which gave the visitors a 4-3 overtime win.

Elon improves to 9-3-1 overall and 3-1-0 in the SoCon. Georgia Southern falls to 2-10-1 overall and 0-2-1 in league play.

The Eagles shattered the Eagle Field attendance record on Friday night with a draw of 938 fans.

“Having big night games here at Eagle field has been a dream of ours as coaches as well as Sam Baker and Dr. Brooks A. Keel for years,” added Kennedy. “We only have 500 seats in the stadium, but to see fans lined up everywhere to see the match is a great thing. The atmosphere was amazing tonight, especially for our seniors who play their first night game on home turf.”

The Eagles face UNCG on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. in another night game inside Eagle Field.